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Baby foods become specialised

It is notoriously difficult to change a baby's diet from breast milk to infant formulas and weaning foods. Often, physical symptoms occur which make this transition stressful and uncomfortable for the infant. Luckily for both mother and baby, a research group created the first model colon of the breast fed infant which permits laboratory testing of potential food ingredients for infant formula and weaning foods, and consequently minimises the unwanted physical discomfort associated with babies' dietary transitions. It also lowers the amount of costly and ethically difficult human infant studies.


The colon is part of the large intestine and is an important part of the digestive system. Within the large intestine, water is eliminated from the already broken-down food and the resulting waste is transformed into faeces. Specifically, the last of the water is removed at the colon. Therefore, when an infant's diet changes there are many effects in terms of the digestive system's reaction. In response, this consortium of Scottish, British, French, German, and Swedish researchers constructed an in vitro model of the breast fed infant colon founded on colonic microflora. In fact, the model consists of a single vessel continuous culture of infant faecal bacteria where the flora comprises lactic acid bacteria that create lactic and acetic acids. The culture is supported for two weeks under anaerobic conditions on a medium based on an adapted infant formula. It is important to note that the model was controlled and checked against the composition of the faeces of exclusively breast fed infants. Furthermore, this is a very innovative product as it is the first model of its kind. In addition, it could not only actively help eliminate the ethical dilemmas involved in costly infant studies, it will also dynamically and accurately facilitate the screening and testing of food ingredients and probiotics for baby food. Thus, the advantages of this model could reach the biotechnology and food industry as well as benefit babies and, by extension, mothers.

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Scientific advances

9 September 2019